Shelby County Schools (SCS) adopted a new policy during its board meeting two weeks ago to limit employee speech on social media. The policy’s goal is to “eliminate disruption” to school or district operations by regulating their employees’ social media. The policy defines social media as all internet-based communication and online content; it lists blogs, podcasts, comments, messages, audio recordings, video recordings, and posts. SCS employees are expressly prohibited from posting anything that creates or may create a disruption.
“All social media use by SCS employees that causes, or has a potential to cause, a disruption to school [sic] school/district operations are prohibited[,]” reads the policy. “SCS recognizes that social media is used by many District employees as a means of communication for both District and personal purposes. SCS has an interest in promoting workplace efficiency and avoiding actual and potential workplace and school/district disruption.”
According to SCS policy, “disruption” is defined at the discretion of the superintendent or their designee.
The new policy also prohibits employees from accessing social media during school hours unless necessary for work, as well as socializing with students on social media. Employees may also not post photos, audio recordings, or videos of other employees without permission from that employee.
Employees could be fired if they violate this new policy. The litmus test for determining an employee’s punishment depends on their impact on work relationships and SCS operations.
“Before imposing discipline, the District may consider, among other things, whether the social media posting potentially impairs discipline or employee harmony, has a detrimental impact on close working relationships requiring personal loyalty and confidence, impedes the performance of the employee’s duties, or interferes with the regular operations of the school/district,” reads the policy.
The SCS Office of Policy and Legislation deferred all questions to the district’s communication officer, Jerica Phillips. Phillips acknowledged receipt of inquiries from The Tennessee Star, but didn’t respond with answers by press time.
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